ruthlevitas

Ruth Levitas

Coleridge Lectures 2016: On Utopias

Coleridge Lectures/
Thu 14 April 2016

Ruth Levitas

Coleridge Lectures 2016: On Utopias

ruthlevitas
Thu 14 April 2016,

2016 is the quincentenary of the publication in Latin of Thomas More’s book Utopia. While aspects of More’s argument about a potential ideal commonwealth still have resonance today – notably his discussions of enclosures and the punishment of poverty – many do not. This lecture will consider the different meanings of the term ‘utopia’ itself in the wake of More’s pun on good place/no place: as desire for a better life, as literary genre, irrelevant fantasy, totalitarian nightmare, and as pre-figurative practice and transformational politics. These themes will recur throughout the 2016 Coleridge Lecture series (part of the Bristol800 programme).

Drawing on her books The Concept of Utopia and Utopia as Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society, Levitas argues that utopia should be understood not as a goal, but as a method of exploration of alternative futures. Such exploration is a pressing necessity today. Given the challenges of climate change and growing inequality, it might even be said that utopia is the precondition of our survival, provided that such imagination is provisional, reflexive, dialogic and rooted in collective practice.

This lecture is part of an annual series inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s radical lectures in Bristol in 1795. The 2016 theme is Utopias. Future themes include Revolution (2017) and Peace (2018).

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